As the developments surrounding the Mesabi Metallics Nashwauk Project have unfolded in the media we watch as millionaire battles millionaire for the buried treasure north of Nashwauk. We open the paper to read of midnight no-trespassing sign installation and the scuffle that ensues.
We also heard reports of contractors pushed to the brink of bankruptcy finally becoming whole again.
Large metropolitan media reporters travel great distances to interview life long Iron Rangers to get their thoughts on these events. People on the streets, in the restaurants, the bars, the banks, and the grocery stores talk about it. What have you heard? What is the latest report?
Each person coloring their story with feelings that have developed over years being a part of it. Throughout this journey and the business transactions that have followed, a division has formed. One side wants to see the valuable ore transported and the other has a need for construction and an operating plant on the site.
It has pitted neighbor against neighbor, businessperson against businessperson, elected official against elected official, and steelworker against steelworker.
Whatever the outcome, much needed high paying jobs hang in the balance. Jobs that impact the people we call our friends and neighbors and family.
Jobs that impact local economies and the optimistic promise of benefit for our small town industrial parks, downtowns, small businesses, housing market, and the local contractors who build that housing.
But can everyone gain?
The question is how much will small communities gain from the inevitable mining activity that will eventually occur outside of Nashwauk?
Will those that live on the stretch of highway from Keewatin to Coleraine realize that benefit? We have these dreams of prosperity to come, but have small cities put themselves in a position to receive that prosperity?
Or will large cities with established Economic Development Corporations, Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, and Chambers of Commerce swallow up the opportunities that present themselves because of this unique mining opportunity?
Small Iron Range cities need a partner that makes them the priority focus and puts their interests first because they do not typically have the staff to work at this full time job.
These small communities could contribute existing tax monies to an economic development corporation and receive the outreach, time, and, attention they need to compete with larger cities to attract businesses, people, and young families to live in them.
In reality, they are contributing to an existing economic development corporate but receiving little benefit. We need to establish a new plan with an organization that knows Keewatin is in Itasca County — a plan for a new economic development association from Keewatin to Coleraine.
Other Range communities have formed joint power agreements for economic development and created chambers of commerce that span miles. We are faced with a decision to give a little of our identities and remain viable or do nothing and watch them completely disappear.
We must put aside past differences and ways of thinking and unify around a new vision of support for Iron Range communities.
Investing wisely in all of our communities creates viable cities in which children can be raised with the same values we have. It’s time for us to demand an investment in ourselves so that we can be the best communities we can be.
It’s time to receive the benefit from our investment and preserve the small mining town way of life because it is unique and important not only to the Iron Range, but to the state of Minnesota.